Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Led by David Rockwell and Greg Keffer, Rockwell Group’s design concept for the renovation of Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York for Fairmont Hotels and Resorts is inspired by a journey from Toronto’s past through to its present, embracing and highlighting the building’s rich patina while adding a contemporary layer that feels timeless.
Given the hotel’s connection to the railway and Toronto’s Union Station, we took material, form, and detail cues from the aesthetics of train cars and railroads. As a significant landmark of Toronto, both in history and in prominence, we wanted to cherish the history of the hotel and bring the story of Fairmont Royal into the next era.
The Fairmont Royal York (formerly the Royal York) is a historic hotel in downtown Toronto that opened in 1929 as the work of Ross and Macdonald with Sproatt and Rolph—one of Canada’s most venerable architecture firms of the 20th-Century.
It set the hospitality standard of the day and was known as a “city within a city.”
The hotel was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway across the street from Toronto’s Union Station.
With 28 floors, the Château-style building was the tallest building in Toronto at that time.
Given the hotel’s connection to the railway and Toronto’s Union Station, the architects took material, form, and detail cues from the aesthetics of train cars and railroads.
As a significant landmark of Toronto, both in history and in prominence, the architects wanted to cherish the history of the hotel and bring the story of Fairmont Royal into the next era.
The Rockwell Group revitalized the hotel’s bustling main entrance and lobby lounge off of Front Street.
The material choices and palette are inspired by the train and train station, seen in our metal details, lacquer finishes, and leather and velvet channel tufting. Rockwell Group took care to differentiate new additions from the existing historic finishes with clear material changes.
The highly-decorated ceiling at the double-height lobby is preserved and celebrated with new lighting.
New textured glass chandeliers and sconces flank the historic lobby, emphasizing the verticality of the space.
Previously, an existing spiral stair and double-sided clock affected circulation in the busy lobby, so Rockwell Group removed the stair and replaced the clock with a grand double-height clock tower in the center of the lobby atrium, where it can be seen from all angles.
Its monumental skeletal bronze metal structure preserves views through and around it.
The base of the clock tower contains an intimate 8-seat lobby bar with a beautiful metal resin bar die.
The back of the tower features a constellation clock that rotates within a night sky inspired glass panel.
The clock tower lounge juxtaposes the passage of time with the romance of train travel.
The color palette is pulled from the blue hour at early evenings with deep navy hues and flashes of bright copper just before sunset.
The lounge features deep blue velvet upholstered banquettes, plush leather bar stools, and a collection of armchairs in rich, textured upholstery.
Custom metal cocktail tables have tinted mirror inlay to reflect the historic ornate ceiling. The lounge sits on top of a large hand-tufted area rug featuring an organic metallic form with polished and patinaed textures.
The 135-seat restaurant is inspired by the hotel’s regal past and immerses the diners in a modern palace garden.
A sculptural marble host stand greets guests as they enter the restaurant through an ethereal series of archways featuring painted metal mesh that create a semi-transparent, layered effect.
Globe lights float above the fan-shaped gray marble mosaic passageway.
In the main dining rooms, an immersive custom mural designed by Rockwell Group in collaboration with the Brooklyn-based wallcovering manufacturer Calico surrounds the rooms.
With a twist on classical painting, the traditional English garden scenery is composed in black and white with select moments highlighted in gold.
The rooms feature solid wood tables with bronze inlay and custom metal bases and rich green velvet and leather-upholstered dining chairs and banquettes.
Another gem-inspired chandelier sits above the central pantry.
Outside the restaurant, a café/bar and fireplace lounge surrounded by walnut millwork invites
guests to linger.
Project: Rockwell Group Fairmont Royal York
Designers: Rockwell Group
Design Team: David Rockwell, Greg Keffer, Evelyn Choi, Karwai Lim, Ray Ho, and Courtney
Original Architects: Ross and Macdonald with Sproatt and Rolph (1929)
Client: Fairmont Hotels and Resorts
Photographers: Ben Rahn